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Youth Put A Fresh Face On Historic Gardens

National Park News

At Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, the new “American Gothic” is a Girl Scout troop and a Dutch colonial. Actually, in every garden in the park, you may have to check your assumptions about whom you will find actively engaged in gardening and related subjects – it’s the kids in our community. 

Gardening’s new cool is a boon to the Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites’ goal to engage local youth in our parks.  

Seven students joined forces with their local national park when Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Green Teen Program in Beacon, New York, came to the park for a series of design workshops at the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield. 

In Beacon, the Green Teens tend their own produce garden, develop job skills and nutrition awareness, work on local farms and contribute to Beacon’s fresh produce distribution initiatives. The series of workshops they do at the Beatrix Farrand Garden introduces a different facet of gardening and career opportunity – design. 

Anne Symmes, the executive director of the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association, led this enthusiastic group into new territory with three design workshops in the beautiful Farrand garden. The garden served as an inspirational studio for trying their own hands at garden design after a discussion of Farrand’s use of symmetry and asymmetry in the garden.  

Given Beatrix Farrand’s importance as one of the first women to break into the field of landscape architecture, and the innovative designs she created, the garden also provided the opportunity to define a “pioneering spirit” and consider the possibilities in forging your own path.  With the Farrand Garden so full of interesting plant material and plant combinations, the teens rounded out their studies by looking at the plant choices Farrand made and learning how horticulturists describe their characteristics. 

The Green Teens summed up the series of design workshops at Bellefield by noting that “each time we come here, it’s like taking a vacation.” The short trip to the Farrand garden transported them to another world, despite its being so close to home.  Beatrix Farrand Garden Association link: http://www.beatrixfarrandgarden.org/

At Val-Kill National Historic Site, Girl Scout Troop 10020 from Wappingers Falls, New York, planned, planted and currently tends The Garden of Hope Peace and Justice.  While they work in this circa1960 garden at Eleanor Roosevelt’s home, they are exploring the ecological impact of their “food footprint” – how their food moves from field to table and who and what in the world that impacts. 

At the same time, they are examining food issues from a social justice perspective.  What they learn, and the actions they take are all considered in the context of Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy.  Everything they harvest goes to support a local food pantry and supplies families with fresh, organic, produce that would be unavailable to them otherwise. Garden of Hope Peace and Justice link: http://www.nps.gov/elro/forteachers/

More youth made waves at Vanderbilt Mansion when twelve “Branching Out” Interns from the National Park Service’s Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation came for a week of hands on learning in the formal gardens.

The NPS Branching Out program exposes high school and college students to careers in the National Park Service and landscape management through work experiences in national parks.

At Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, their focus was the relationship between historic integrity and landscape management decisions in two garden projects at the Vanderbilt Formal Gardens.  They rebuilt a garden path in more stable materials and restored health to historic shrub plantings that have been overwhelmed by invasive vines. 

They also toured the historic homes and landscapes that comprise the Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites to see, first-hand, how research and history influence the management of these landscapes.  Branching Out link: http://www.nps.gov/oclp/branching_out.htm



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